Star Trek Into Darkness-attachment0

Star Trek Into Darkness

Movie Information

The Story: Kirk and the rest of the Enterprise crew of the are sent on a mission to deal with a terrorist out to destroy Starfleet. The Lowdown: The plotting gets clunky and the action could be handled more effectively, but the characters — improved from the first film — keep this Star Trek entry mostly worth watching.
Score:

Genre: Science Fiction
Director: J.J. Abrams (Star Trek)
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg
Rated: PG-13

I saw Star Trek Into Darkness (what does that title even mean?) on Friday morning. I expect I’ll have forgotten most of it by mid-summer. It’s that kind of movie. Oh, I’ll remember that I mostly enjoyed it well enough — with reservations. I’ll remember the plot twist (which wasn’t hard to guess). I’ll remember the bits pilfered from an earlier Star Trek movie. I’ll also remember that it’s too long for its own good, and that J.J. Abrams isn’t at his best directing action, especially when he tries to tap into his inner Michael Bay. But the specifics of the film will largely have evaporated — much like they did from Abrams’ first entry, Star Trek (2009). I’m not sure that’s really a criticism so much as it’s just something inherent in this sort of thing — unless you’re the kind of enthusiast who’ll see it multiple times. (I know you’re out there.) I’m strictly casual about Star Trek anything — and I’m going to be positively heretical before this review is over. You are warned.

In many respects, I’d rank this slightly above the 2009 film — if only because I did not spend the entire movie wanting to slap Chris Pine. Either Pine has grown into his character of James T. Kirk, or I’ve grown used to Pine. (Since the only thing I’ve seen him in the meantime was the fairly moronic People Like Us last year, I’m guessing Pine himself has improved.) I’ll also admit that I’ll probably remember this film’s central bad guy better than the one in the first film. (I don’t even remember who the bad guy was in the first one or why he was bad.) The relationship between Pine’s Kirk and Zachary Quinto’s Spock feels authentic — much more so than Spock’s relationship with Uhura (Zoe Saldana) — and authentically complex. Indeed, it’s what makes the movie mostly superior to the first one. The plot — a revenge-driven affair that finally morphs into a kind of remake of another film (I’ll get to that in a minute) — certainly isn’t any great shakes, even though it does largely serve in a purely functional manner.

OK, now we’re about to get into the area of spoilers (in modern parlance), so if you haven’t seen the film and desire to keep yourself pure until you consummate your union with it, stop reading — though how you could have missed this I can’t imagine since everyone who hates this film has been advertising it all over the Internet. One of the best things about the film — casting Benedict Cumberbatch as the complex villain of the piece — becomes one of the more troublesome things about the film when it transpires that he is really the legendary Khan. (Nevermind that he doesn’t sound like Ricardo Montalban or have that 1980’s hairdo.) That might have been OK with the purists, but when the film itself starts turning into a variation on Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982), well a lot of Trekkie folks do seem annoyed. Wrath of Khan is a film that the faithful like to festoon with words like “masterpiece.” Not being one of the faithful, I took a squint at Khan — and “masterpiece” did not come to mind. All in all, I thought the new film made better use of the same material, though the arbitrary use of screaming “Khan!” was downright embarrassing.

However, it’s at this point where Abrams proves he really doesn’t have a clue how to stage an epic scene. Oh, sure he has the CGI crew make a spaceship crash into a city, but the impact never hits home. Unlike (it pains me to say) Michael Bay, Abrams doesn’t understand the value of property damage. The event is all so very impersonally observed in such a shrug-inducing manner that it’s hard to imagine anyone even got hurt. Almost as bad — in a different way — is the attempt to generate suspense concerning Kirk’s fate after the film has established the solution twice. Despite these reservations, Star Trek Into Darkness is palatable enough entertainment — with characters who at least offer the illusion of some depth. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence.

Playing at Carolina Cinemas, Co-ed of Brevard, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, United Artists of Hendersonville

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

42 thoughts on “Star Trek Into Darkness

  1. Dionysis

    “…doesn’t understand the value of property damage.”

    I really don’t know why, but I feel compelled to make mental note of this phrase for use in the future, probably in some completely different context. It just has the right kind of perverse ring to it.

  2. Xanadon't

    I liked this exactly enough to never see it again, but almost certainly see the next installment. So- success.

  3. Ken Hanke

    Sounds about where I am, though the probability of seeing any Star Trek movie more than once is slim to none with me.

  4. Xanadon't

    Well a year or two ago, upon realizing that I never did see the final two “Next Generation” cast Star Trek movies, I sat down for rewatches of both Generations and First Contact before trudging ahead to the others. Watching First Contact twice was a considerably better experience than watching Nemesis or… Insurrection?.. once.

  5. Ken Hanke

    Ah, Nemesis — that’s the one where I almost burned myself down by falling asleep in the theater with a cigarette. (Yes, we used to smoke during the late night non-public screenings. So what? It’s not like Carmike can fire me now.)

  6. Big Al

    “I’ll also admit that I’ll probably remember this film’s central bad guy better than the one in the first film. (I don’t even remember who the bad guy was in the first one or why he was bad.)”

    Eric Bana was wasted on that character, whose sole purpose was to establish the reason for the time-paradox responsable for the “re-boot” of the franchise. Anyone could have played that part, and I suspect Bana was just an available big-name actor (well, bigger than any of the headliners, anyway) attached the film to insure that non-trekkies would recognize the name of SOMEONE in the cast.

    As for the big differences between Montalban and Cumberbatch as Khan, I always thought Montalban, while entertaining with his Spaniard ethnicity and accent, was mis-cast as an Aryan-Indian figure, which could much better be portrayed by a British actor, due to the historical link between colonial Britain and India.

    Even if you don’t buy that, Cumberbatch’s drilling stare and fierce presence made up for any deficits and cemented him as the driven superhuman/dictator that Khan was meant to be.

  7. Big Al

    “First Contact twice was a considerably better experience than watching Nemesis or… Insurrection?.. once.”

    I was pleasantly surprised that “First Contact” survived Jonathan Frakes’ direction. As we witnessed in “Insurrection”, he has a tendancy to ruin ST films by inserting his supporting character, Riker, too far into the film, almost as if he is trying to nudge Stewart/Picard out of the limelight.

    “Nemesis” took a good idea in a bad direction, partly by drawing the film out too long with a prolonged final battle that contained too many quiet intervals (by now you all know how sensative I am too overly long films), and AGAIN pushed Riker in further than needed with that silly and unneccessary battle-within-a-battle with Ron Perlman.

    Also, I think the entire post-Kirk-era ST franchise was showing some fatigue, as the failing TV series “Enterprise” was suffering at that time and was being put down three seasons earlier than planned.

    Hence the need to re-boot, which this Trekkie has so far approved of, and without any predictable knee-jerk Puritanism regarding Trek canon.

  8. Ken Hanke

    Even if you don’t buy that, Cumberbatch’s drilling stare and fierce presence made up for any deficits and cemented him as the driven superhuman/dictator that Khan was meant to be.

    And he’s not as campy as Montalban in a ridiculous wig and a cheesy costume.

  9. Dionysis

    Only slightly off-topic, I ran into a fun series of videos on Youtube recently. It’s “Everything That Is Wrong With (fill in the movie title) in (blank) minutes or less.” Loads of fun. Last night I watched “Everything that’s wrong…for Avatar, Iron Man 2, Les Miserables (the longest video of the bunch to cover everything), The Avengers and many other titles. Even if you love a particular film, these are fun to watch and done by a pretty savvy movie goer.

  10. Orbit DVD

    *SPOILERS*

    I really enjoyed this movie, but there are two cliches that people are griping about that I agree with.

    Please stop as a plot point

    1. The bad guy intentionally getting caught
    2. The higher authority figure is really the bad guy

  11. Big Al

    “The higher authority figure is really the bad guy” has been a recurrent trend in ST, the idea that once everyone has been leveled into a perfect and equal society, someone will periodically try to rise above and rule them, even with good intentions, like Marcus’ desire to preemept the Kilingons (or when the military attempted to seize control of Earth to defend against the Dominion in DS9).

    As for “The bad guy intentionally getting caught”, cliches are often based on ancient wisdom: Sun Tzu always advocated misdirecting the enemy to think you are weak in order to strengthen your attack.

  12. Jeremy Dylan

    Lenny and I liked this one too.

    Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Rickman is tops. I hope Hollywood doesn’t waste him.

    I saw Star Trek Into Darkness (what does that title even mean?)

    I guess STAR TREK 2 THE STREETS was taken.

  13. Big Al

    “Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Rickman…”

    I loved the original “Die Hard”, but in retrospect, who could believe that someone as scrawny and effete as Rickman could be a villian, much less LEAD a band of villians? (Maybe he was the Russian ballet dancer’s girlfriend?) The smallest of his band looked as if he could bitch-slap Rickman into tears. Even McLain’s wife looked stronger.

    But every inch of Cumberbatch looks as hard as steel and menacing, right down to his “Blue Steel” gaze. I think ST may have opened up some new career paths for BC.

    Ten bucks sez the next installment of ST will be a re-make/re-boot of “City on the Edge of Forever”. (The Tribbles have already had their moment).

  14. Jeremy Dylan

    I loved the original “Die Hard”, but in retrospect, who could believe that someone as scrawny and effete as Rickman could be a villian, much less LEAD a band of villians?

    He had guns and brains. He paid other people to have big arm muscles on his behalf.

  15. Ken Hanke

    Back in the “old days” criminal masterminds didn’t need to be two separate gorillas worth of grunting manhood.

  16. DrSerizawa

    Scrawny and effete maybe, but then the most evil people in the world are always cowardly and yet have an ability to get others to do their dirty work for them. History is full of such villains. Most notably Hitler. (Ha! I managed to work Godwin’s Law into this.)

  17. Ken Hanke

    “The thing that’s worth doing is worth forcing somebody else to do it.” — Sir Henry Rawlinson

  18. DrSerizawa

    SPOILERS

    Star Trek: X-M is more like it.

    It’s been a couple hours since we sat through two hours of shaky cam, lens flares, cut-action and overblown CGI so my eyeballs have settled down now.

    Why Star Trek: X-M? Well, there was a scifi movie back in the 50s starring Lloyd Bridges that was named Spaceship X-M. In it they are flying to the moon and their engines quit and so they stop moving in space. In the latest Star Trek the science is so incredibly bad that I felt this new moniker more appropriate.

    Some things I learned while watching Star Trek: Into Darkness.

    1- When a space ship is in orbit and it loses power it immediately starts to fall onto the planet.

    2- Things in that space ship fall at a faster rate than the ship itself, allowing scenes of crew members falling long distances to splat on things.

    3- An officer can be changed from Captain to cadet and then to first officer and back to Captain at the whim of an admiral.

    4- It is “serious” threat when someone threatens to “militarize” Star Fleet…. which is a military organization already with phasers and photon torpedoes and neat short skirts for the ladies and stuff.

    5- All important female crew members are superhot. The more educated, the hotter.

    6- I really can’t stand Chris Pine and was sorry when they resurrected him.

    7- The movie takes place in 2257. Khan has been in suspended animation for 300 years. So he fought it out with Star Fleet in 1857. Cool!

    My wife left the theatre feeling insulted. They’d taken the plot of Wrath of Khan and removed all the suspense, added CGI, frenetic scenery chewing and cameras without tripods and ended up with a barely coherent mess. The best part of Wrath of Khan was the hide and seek in the nebula. Naturally such slow things are impossible for today’s movie goers who apparently expect a continuous stream of noisy explosions in the vacuum of space.

    No, we didn’t like it and will not be shelling out any more bucks in the future for Abrams’ Star Trek crapola.

    Hopefully Elysium might avoid the worst tropes, but since it apparently has the “evil rich vs noble poor” theme I’m not optimistic.

    Sorry for the long post but sometimes catharsis is good for the soul.

  19. Ken Hanke

    This isn’t a movie that I care about enough to argue — the same could be said about any and everything Star Trek — but I will note that the 1950 movie was Rocketship X-M. And not that it makes it more plausible, but isn’t 300 years from 2257 1957?

  20. Big Al

    Hey, Doc:

    Point# 3: The precedent for the fluidity of promotions/demotions in the 23rd century was made waaaay back in ST:TMP when Admiral Kirk was allowed to resume his rank of Captain to save the universe (again) which my adult peers (I was nine) vociferously objected too, but it is now CANON, so resistance is futile…

    Point# 4: Gene Rodenberry conceptualized Starfleet to be modeled after the United States Coast Guard, a civilian organization of the Treasury Department in peacetime (and only seconded to the U.S. Navy in wartime) until 9-11 when it was placed under the DHS, also a civilian entity. Starfleet’s USCG pedigee is evidenced by the white hulls with red/orange and blue markings, and with the mission of defense and peacekeeping as secondary to exploration, enforcement of space-lanes and diplomacy. Starships, like USCG cutters, were not designed primarily as warships, hence the need for the villain in ST:ID to build the “militarized” USS Vengeance.

    Point # 7: In addition to Ken’s mathematical correction (thank you, sir), original Trek canon states that in the franchise timeline, the Third World War which bred the supermen occured in the late 20th century, so that would make the beginning of their imprisonment as early as the 1980s, for a cumlative period of up to 280 years, which an emotionally invested Khan would have easily exagerated into 300. These timeline/origin ideas, which were created in the 1960s have been selectively altered (horrors!) as the franchise has evolved (DS9 was a perticular offender), so some confusion on the part of the writers is to be expected. Adding to the confusion is the fact that 3 of the 5 series in the franchise, ST:TNG, ST:DS9 and ST:VGER all occur in the 24th century, while ST:TOS and “Enterprise” occur in the 23rd and 21st respectively, so writers (who are not always Trekkies and therefore not invested in knowledge or obeyance of ST canon) frequently get confused when adding up the centuries.

    Also, the preview for “Elysium” looked dreadful. AND this is the 3rd film this year where Earth is in some way abandoned by humanity. Enough already!

  21. Ken Hanke

    Also, the preview for “Elysium” looked dreadful. AND this is the 3rd film this year where Earth is in some way abandoned by humanity. Enough already!

    It just works out that way. Anyhow, I’ll remain optimistic since it’s by the guy who made District 9.

  22. Jeremy Dylan

    I struggle to get on board with the idea that a fictional futuristic space patrol being more fluid with promotions/demotions than contemporary real military organisations could take away enjoyment from a sci-fi action-adventure film.

  23. DrSerizawa

    I concede all points. Usually I just let this stuff roll off my back. But for some reason this last ST just burned me.

    On another front, good ol’ JJ Abrams is going to helm Star Wars VII. Oh joy, oh rapture.

    I wonder how a mix of Lucas boring filmmaking and Abrams’ frenetic style will work out.

  24. Jeremy Dylan

    Actually, after catching up with Abrams’ STAR TREK movies last week, I’m actually kind of excited about the new STAR WARS picture, which isn’t a sentence I thought I’d ever hear myself say.

    And I don’t think Lucas is involved in the new pictures. Abrams is directing and Michael Arndt (of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE and TOY STORY 3) is writing it. Lucas divested himself of the franchise when he sold the whole kit and kaboodle to Disney.

  25. Ken Hanke

    I’m actually kind of excited about the new STAR WARS picture, which isn’t a sentence I thought I’d ever hear myself say.

    I’m still not hearing myself say it.

  26. DrSerizawa

    From Wiki:
    In February 2013, Iger confirmed in an interview with CNBC that Disney-Lucasfilm were working on a “few stand-alone” films. He said Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinberg were both working on films derived from Star Wars characters.

    Heh heh. They used the word “derived”. That about explains most “modern” scifi.

    Also, the same article claims that Lucas will be a “creative consultant”. I can think of many words to describe Lucas’ movie making skills since The Phantom Menace and “creative” isn’t one of them. Maybe they will ignore him. Especially if he insists on injecting JarJar Binks or any of Binks’ descendants.

  27. Ken Hanke

    Lawrence Kasdan????? Talk about running on fumes! It’s a long time — like 30 years — since that was a name to conjure with.

  28. Jeremy Dylan

    Kasdan isn’t writing the Abrams STAR WARS movie, but one of the other potential spinoffs/sequels.

  29. Ken Hanke

    Yes, I could see that, but even so…

    Then again, I cannot imagine it is humanly possible to make me really care about anything Star Wars

  30. Ken Hanke

    I won’t remember this Star Trek movie in six months tops. It’s disposable entertainment to me. Certainly nothing about it makes me all a-dither to see Abrams’ future endeavours.

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